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When Caught Riding the KTX without a Ticket

July 10, 2009

Ever wonder what might happen if you got on a KTX train without a ticket? I saw it first hand the other day. All verbal exchanges that follow are in Korean.

A mid 40’s-looking Korean man was riding the KTX from Seoul to Busan, sitting in the same row across the aisle from my girlfriend and I. A college age woman got on at a stop and it appeared he was sitting in her seat. He smiled and moved to the window seat. He began to chat her up, apparently unaware of the “don’t talk to me” signals she was clearly broadcasting. Eventually, she got up and moved to the seat behind him. He sat quietly after that.

Five minutes later, a conductor came into the compartment with a handheld device that verifies seat assignments. She stopped at his seat and double checked her readout. “May I see your ticket?” she said to the college student, who promptly produced it. At this point the man got up and went to the bathroom. As he moved into the aisle, a terrible stench emanated from the area in which he had just been sitting. The conductor said to the student “Why aren’t you sitting in your assigned seat?” The student told her that the man had been bothering her, and that she thought something about him wasn’t quite right (smiling, she covered her nose and mouth with her hand). The man returned, as if on cue, and the conductor asked him for his ticket.

He smiled and said “No ticket.” The conductor asked him if he could pay for a ticket. “No money,” he said, with a second, guilty smile. She asked where he was going. “Busan.” She got on the radio and called her boss, who arrived almost immediately. The boss explained to him that he would have to get off at the next stop. He shrugged and got up, exiting the compartment to the rear. The boss got on the radio and summoned help, and three KTX employees followed him to the rear of the train and kept him there until the next stop (Miryang), where he was put off the train. We saw him sitting there on the platform, likely waiting for the next train to finish his journey.

In the United States, someone pulling the same stunt would likely have the police meet them at whatever stop they were put off the train at, and charged with theft of service.

I don’t know how a foreigner in Korea might be treated differently (more harshly, easier), but assuming all things are equal, it seems there is no economic disincentive to attempting to ride illegally, as once caught, you’ll be asked to purchase a ticket.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2009 7:10 pm

    My girlfriend and I rode the KTX one Sunday night on a standing-room-only ticket. We didn’t have a choice – the tickets spewed from the machine just minutes before the train was scheduled to leave. The sections in-between cars have a couple seats, though my girlfriend actually curled in where people might put in luggage… Eventually the train cleared and we got regular seats… We were wondering what would happen if the hostess decided to get b!tchy and send us back to the cargo container, but she didn’t seem to care…

  2. July 11, 2009 1:40 am

    I once misplaced my KTX ticket after riding from Daejeon to Seoul and when the guy outside the train (in the station at the exit doors) asked for my ticket I fumbled around in a blind panic for a few minutes before he just gave up waiting and shooed me on through. I’ve made that tip a lot (with a ticket!) and I’ve noticed that sometimes there’s a person who takes tickets and sometimes there is nobody; the exit area is just deserted. I’ve often wondered at how easy it must be for people to just sit on the train and then sneak by the exit gate – or to just claim they can’t find their ticket. Of course, my expereince might have been different because the guy couldn’t/didn’t want to speak English.

  3. October 1, 2009 5:24 am

    Actually Tony, I ride the Metro-North out of New York pretty frequently, and exactly the same thing happens when there is no ticket and no money.

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